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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Science and Practice of Agriculture

Science and Practice of Agriculture.

But while we view with complacency the labour struggles going on in other lands, we must not shut our eyes to the struggle which is being carried on throughout the world for supremacy in all agricultural matters. The Governments of almost every country are making huge efforts to instruct the people in the science and practice of agriculture. Agricultural Societies, Agricultural Unions, and Farmers' Clubs are all working in the same direction, and what does it all mean? It is simply a matter of self-defence and of self-preservation.

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There was a time when men could with impunity laugh at science as applied to agriculture. That was before the advent of labour-saving machinery, before America had commenced the game of soil spoliation in her vast plains of virgin soil. Matters are very different now. So long as America, India, Russia, and other countries continue to pour wheat into the British market at present prices, so long will it be necessary for us in New Zealand, with our dearer land, to adopt the most approved methods of producing the maximum of grain, if we are to compete successfully

The farmers of New Zealand must realise the fact that, unless they are also up and doing, they will be left behind in the race. Every district should have its club, which should meet at least once a month to discuss matters affecting their own interests. There should be yearly or half-yearly meetings of a General Farmers' Union (such a Union as suggested has already been inaugurated in Otago) where delegates from all societies and clubs should attend to discuss larger questions. At the monthly meetings, discussions might be opened by the reading of papers on such subjects as the management of grass lands, the breeding of stock, and the best crosses of sheep for specific purposes.

Communion of thought is what we want, the old conservative idea of keeping your knowledge to yourself is, or should be, exploded. It is to the interest of all that we should produce the largest quantity of the best quality of grain, meat, and dairy produce; therefore, I contend that if my system of farm management is superior to my neighbours, it is to my own interest to impart my better ways to him, and by so doing, help to bring up our general average to the highest pitch of excellence. As the poet says—

"And if a better way be thine
Record it frankly, or accept of mine."

This is an age of combination not competition amongst ourselves. The reason for all this is, that we are not depending upon a local or a limited market for our produce. On the contrary, we have the markets of the world before us for our staple products. The greater the general excellence, the greater will be our individual chances of success; and thus it is that we should sow broadcast information on any improved method which may be found advantageous in our daily practice.